The meeting “went very well,” Mr. Schmidt wrote. He cautioned, however, that the information he presented might encounter “headwind” when it was examined by experts at the Air Resources Board lab in El Monte, near Los Angeles.
That was an understatement.
The experts soon concluded that the technical information Mr. Schmidt presented was yet another smoke screen — the latest in a series of maneuvers by the automaker to hide its misdeeds. A few weeks later, having run out of excuses, Volkswagen was forced to admit that the diesels it had sold in the United States since late 2008 had contained software designed to camouflage emissions that vastly exceeded legal limits.
Media reports on the scandal have usually focused on Volkswagen’s original sin: the company’s decision in 2006 to equip its diesels with illegal software.
But the most costly aspect of the wrongdoing for Volkswagen may have been the cover-up that the company orchestrated after regulators first became suspicious.
The following reconstruction, based on interviews with dozens of participants and a review of internal Volkswagen documents and communications, shows that the cover-up spanned years and lasted until days before the company’s lies were exposed. Volkswagen employees manipulated not only the engine software, but also generated reams of false or misleading data to hide the fact that millions of vehicles had been purposely engineered to deceive regulators and spew deadly gases into the air.
Documents and interviews…